2007-11-28 / Features

The Chios Massacre Of 1822

MILJAN PETER ILICH

IIn 1821, much of Greece revolted against the Ottoman Empire. The island of Chios did not join the uprising. Because

"Anatavos", a work depicting a part of the 1822 Chios Massacre. "Anatavos", a work depicting a part of the 1822 Chios Massacre. of its unique and very lucrative mastic

resin production and its maritime trade, it was very prosperous and its people wanted peace. The following year all changed and one of the greatest tragedies of the Greek people and European history up to that time took place.

On Mar. 24, 1822, a fleet of small ships landed a largely Samian force of rebels on Chios. It was led by Lycourgas Logothetes from Samos and Antonio Bournias from Chios. They sought to raise a revolt among the island population. Some of the islanders joined but many, including the Metropolitan, were against an uprising. Since there was already a substantial Turkish garrison there and they were only a few miles from the mainland of Turkey, they felt that this was a hopeless cause.

The Greeks were not aware that the Chians' chance of success was even further destroyed by the fact that British and French diplomats in Constantinople had betrayed the plans for a Chian revolt to the Ottoman government. This allowed the Sultan's government to make preparations in advance to crush the uprising on Chios.

Sultan Mahmud was furious that there should be any revolt on Chios, which had been treated by the Ottomans better than much of the rest of Greece. He ordered that a bloody example be made of the island. A massive Ottoman fleet and large military force was directed to the island. It was commanded by the Sultan to kill all males over 12, all women over 40 and all children up to two years of age.

The fleet arrived at Chios on Holy Thursday, Apr. 12, 1822. The militia landed on the following day, Holy Friday.

An incredible orgy of killing, rape and plunder began. The Sultan's orders were carried out and many thousands of innocent men, women and children were massacred within the first two weeks. Churches were destroyed and icons desecrated. Only the mastic regions were spared because of their profitability.

The Samians fled quickly, leaving the Chiotes to their fate. After Admiral Canaris blew up the Turkish flagship, the mastic regions were next. A new orgy of murders followed. By the time it was over, more than 60,000 people, probably most of the Greek population, were dead. Some 40,000 were enslaved. Others fled, and only a few thousand remained on the island, which has not yet recovered from its calamity and would remain under Turkey for another century.

The news of the massacre spread throughout Europe and America. It shocked the Western world. Many famous people consequently became ardent supporters of Greek independence. In France, Delacroix painted a monumental picture about it. Victor Hugo wrote a poem commemorating it. British Lord Byron went to Greece and joined the revolution. In America, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and many others now supported the Greek cause. Thousands of European volunteers and finally the intervention of Western navies helped Greek Revolutionaries to secure Greek independence. It was the shock wave generated by the massacre that was critical in helping to obtain enough support to bring about a rebirth of Greek freedom. If the conscience of the Western world had not been awakened by the Chios Massacre, all of Greece might have remained under the Turkish yoke for many years to come.

Through their deaths and suffering, the people of Chios achieved their greatest victory.

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